Port Harcourt — A call has been made to the Federal Government to reduce the cost of establishment of the proposed modular refinery, in order to enable repentant artisanal refiners in the Niger Delta own the facilities.
Non-governmental groups known as Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, YEAC, and the Society for Women and Youths Affairs, SWAYA, said the call was imperative in order to save the Niger Delta environment, which has been seriously affected by activities of illegal oil refiners.
The two groups stated this at the training and sensitization of artisanal refiners in Rivers State on guidelines for the establishment of modular refineries and renewable energy, as alternative means of livelihoods for environmental sustainability in the Niger Delta.
Executive Director of YEAC, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, disclosed that ex-artisanal refiners were ready to engage in legal businesses but expressed fears that if nothing was done by the Federal Government to support them, they may return to oil theft.
“The government can help to fund efforts of the youths that have already started their modular refinery. FG can help in relaxing some of the very high cost of establishing this modular refinery because the youths do not have enough money to purchase the facilities for the modular refinery.
“I believe that if the Federal Government comes in set up this refinery and allow them pay back gradually it will help address the issues of oil theft.
“The modular refineries the federal government promised will also help to tackle the issues of the unemployment which these youths claim to be the reason for involvement in the illegal business.”
YEAC noted that proactive steps need to be taken by the FG to ensure safe environment for the people of the region, adding that those in oil theft can stop if they have alternative source of livelihood.
Fyneface reiterated that steps must be taken on how to address the issues, in order to engender a better environment for the people to live.
“Artisanal refining in the Delta has impacted the environment negatively; it has polluted the land and caused the fishermen not to fish any more. We are experiencing soot and a large percentage of the cause is attributed to the illegal refining of crude oil in the Niger Delta.
“If we bring in renewable energy it will help them to be engaged. We have also taught them how to make a living out of cinematography. If we provide an alternative means of livelihood it will create jobs and keep them out of oil theft.
“The Federal Government can buy into the ideas we are putting together at the advocacy centre to address the issue of oil pollution in the Niger Delta region. They can help by keeping to their promise of establishing modular refineries for youths who engage in oil theft.
“The essence of this training is to train youths in the Niger Delta that are engage in oil theft and artisanal refining on alternative means of livelihoods. We are doing this because we want them to stop the act of oil theft and stop polluting our environment and we cannot tell them to stop when there is no alternative job for them.
“If the FG fails to provide for them after they have followed us since 2017, they may likely go back to the trade and we don’t want them to do. We are calling on them to come and establish the modular refinery for them.”
Also, a former Niger Delta Regional Liaison Officer and Media Consultant to the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Mr Preye Kiaramo, said the move by the body to end oil theft in the region was in line with the new Niger Delta vision.
Kiaramo explained that artisanal refining of petroleum products was causing environmental problem with attendant health issues.
“Artisanal refining activities have aggravated the bad environmental situation in the region. This is the reason the federal government came up with the vision of establishing modular refineries. But till now nothing has been done beyond that pronouncement.”